Divorce

Jesus responded to a Pharisee’s question about divorce by stating that it was only meant to be a solution for relationships that were broken beyond repair. He said, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9 ESV). Jesus’ position on divorce was based on Genesis 2:24 which states, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The idea that two people can have such a close relationship that it is like they are one person is reflected in the trinity of God. The three persons that make up the trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are independent beings and yet, they are all considered to be a single entity. The closest that humans can get to such a relationship is that of a husband and wife.

Part of the reason Jesus said divorce was to be avoided was because the bond that is formed between a husband and wife cannot be severed spiritually. God no longer sees a man and woman that have been joined in marriage as independent persons. Jesus used the Greek term chorizo (kho-rid’-zo) to describe what happens when two people are divorced. Chorizo means “to place room between” (G5563). There is a physical distance, but the spiritual connection still exists. An example of this separation can be found in Jesus parable of the rich man and Lazarus where it says after the rich man died he could see Lazarus resting with Abraham in the distance, but was told he could not dip the end of his finger in water and cool his tongue (Luke 16:24) because “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (Luke 16:26, ESV).

Jesus told the Pharisees the reason Moses had made a provision in the law for divorce was because of the hardness of their hearts (Matthew 19:8). The Greek terms that are translated hardness of their hearts are sklerokardia (sklay-rok-ar-dee’-ah) and humon (hoo-mone’). These words refer to a personal lack of spiritual perception (G4641). You could say that the provision Moses made for divorce was only meant to apply to those who were unsaved because their eternal damnation made the issue of divorce of no consequence. After hearing Jesus’ explanation, his disciples said, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (Matthew 19:10, ESV). Jesus told them it depended on God’s will for each person (Matthew 19:12). Marriage is not something that everyone can handle.

Spiritual relationships

Everyone is born into a family. Although their structures can vary greatly, families usually consist of a father and mother, and at least one child. Jesus made his disciples aware of the fact that those who had been born again also had a spiritual family. There may not be much difference between our physical and spiritual family, except that membership is optional, or chosen, in God’s family. While Jesus was teaching a crowd of people, his relatives came and wanted to speak with him. It says in Matthew 12:47-48, “Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who are my mother? and who are my brethren?” It appeared that Jesus’ mother, along with his brothers and sisters, came to listen to him preach and wanted to gain access to the place where he was teaching, but there wasn’t room for them inside. The Greek term that is translated “stand without,” histemi (his’-tay-mee) means “to make to stand” and “to appoint” (2476). Another way of looking at the situation would be to say that Jesus’ mother and siblings had to stand outside because they weren’t important enough to gain access to the building.

Jesus’ reaction to the situation might have looked as if he was indifferent to his family’s request to speak with him, but I believe the point he was trying to make was that his biological family members were no more important to him than those in his spiritual family. It says in Matthew 12:49-50, “And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren. For whoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Jesus was conveying to them that his disciples were of equal importance to him as his own family members, meaning that they were as close to him as anyone could get. This was an important distinction because in the Jewish religion, family relationships were the basis of all spiritual activities. Anyone that was not a member of Abraham’s family was excluded from God’s blessing. The key to understanding Jesus’ distinction between his biological family members and the members of his spiritual family was the statement, “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). What Jesus was saying was that doing God’s will was the deciding factor of who gained access to him.